We spend so much time, energy and money on food, shouldn’t we be enjoying it? Mindful eating is a strategy to be fully present with your senses during the process of eating in order to improve your relationship with food.
When doing research for this article, I discovered that this is pretty much what I do and have been encouraging you to do to reach your health goals, regardless of what they may be. Whether you want to lose weight, manage type 2 diabetes or improve athletic performance, mindful eating may be your nutritional answer.
Mindful eating is all about self-nurturing.
Mindful eating happens before, during and after you eat. It is about paying attention to how food looks, smells, tastes and feels. While it might sound tediously time-consuming taking your time chewing and savouring every single bite like a judge on Masterchef in slow-mo, mindful eating is a much more flexible approach to eating.
Eat what you like. Many diets are strict and tell you exactly what to eat and more importantly, what not to eat. Mindful eating doesn’t have strict guidelines on what you eat. It is more about listening to your body, being more gentle with yourself, and allowing yourself to have those chips if you really want. But, because you’re paying attention to how food looks, smells, tastes and feels, most people report not snacking past the point of fullness, or even snacking when they’re bored in the first place.
Forget the rules you think you know about eating. When I was about six, we lived with my grandparents for a year. With their best interest at heart, my grandparents wouldn’t let us leave the table until we had eaten all our food. Bless them. This was because of the time they lived in. We don’t live in that time anymore. You also don’t need to “hit your macros” or “count your calories”. This stuff makes me cringe. I couldn’t think of anything worse when it comes to eating. I’ve never recommended it. It’s just painful.
Base your decisions on how you feel. Instead of eating only foods that some diet tells you to eat because Beyonce lost 12kgs on it, or how much of foods to eat because some influencer is teaching you how to count your food, simply be more present with all of your senses when you eat. Take your time preparing and eating food, focus on it, and use your inner cues such as hunger and fullness to be your guide.
Single-task. People talk about being busy like a badge of honour. They also take great pride in the ability to multi-task. We know that this is not very effective for productivity. Single-tasking is, as the name suggests, is about focussing on just one thing. It’s not always possible. As I sit here and write at 6 am, I’m drinking my long black. Ideally, I’d be focussed on the way the long black looks, smells, tastes and feels, so when I take a sip, I take a moment to enjoy it. You don’t have to eat or drink mindfully every single time, but try it when you can. As you do, you’ll become better at it and want to do it more often.
Be flexible. The most important part of mindful eating is simply increasing your awareness around food. Don’t be judgemental — adopt a more flexible approach. Food is neither “good” nor “bad”, it’s your thinking which makes it so. Food can make you feel good or bad, but the food itself is not good or bad. The goal here is to change your relationship with food so that it leads to more supportive behaviours.
The purpose of mindful eating is to be fully present with your senses in order to improve your relationship with food. The key here is to take it one meal at a time and do the best that you can, when you can.
How do you eat mindfully? Or… how could you start eating more mindfully today?
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
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